Money Health

What Happens if You Can’t Pay Rent This Month, or Next?

What Happens if You Can't Pay the Rent
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If the pandemic has left you with financial hardship and you’re worried you can’t pay rent, rest assured you’re not alone. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), nearly a third of apartment renters in the U.S. didn’t make their rent payments during the first week of April.

Between April 1st and 5th, only 69% of tenants paid their rent. During the same time period in 2019, 82% made timely rent payments, so it’s clear that coronavirus has taken a toll on the finances of many renters. There are 44 million renter households in the country, but the data by NMHC only reflects 13.4 million units and does not include subsidized housing. Therefore, the amount of people who can’t pay rent because of the crisis could be significantly higher.

While the $2 trillion stimulus bill will help some renters in federally subsidized housing, it won’t assist those who live in rental properties owned by private landlords. If you’re a renter who is having trouble paying rent on time, chances are you’re worried about how you’ll cover other bills as well as where you’ll live in the future. The good news is there are some tips that can help get through this rough patch and reduce your risk of late fees and eviction.

Review your lease

Take a close look at your lease and look for any information that states what your landlord expects if you can’t pay rent. There’s a good chance the contract will allow some leeway in certain circumstances. Your lease may include a clause that addresses natural disasters and other events like pandemics. If you need clarity on anything in your lease, don’t hesitate to ask your landlord or consult an attorney*.

Alert your landlord

Be sure to let your landlord know you’re hurting financially and may not be able to pay rent. They may allow you to defer your payments or make partial payments temporarily. This is particularly likely if they consider you a good tenant and don’t want to lose you. Fortunately, many landlords understand the unexpected financial challenges many of their tenants are currently facing as a result of COVID-19 and are willing to be flexible.

Put your agreement in writing

Even if you and your landlord come to an informal agreement, type it up or jot it down and make sure you both sign off on it. The document should include the following:

  • What the agreement is
  • How long the agreement will last
  • What is expected from both parties

With a written agreement, you can ensure everyone is on the same page and avoid conflict and confusion down the road.

Wait for your stimulus check

Under the CARES Act, you may receive an automatic economic impact payment from the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS. Your income will determine whether you’re eligible and how much you’ll receive but you may get up to $1,200 if you’re an individual or up to $2,400 if you’re a married couple. If you’re a parent, you may also lock in $500 for each qualifying child. You can expect your check to hit your bank account or mailbox by April 17th.

Understand your state’s moratorium laws for evictions

Each state has its own laws for evictions during the coronavirus era. Some states are temporarily suspending some or all eviction proceedings. In New York, for example, the governor has enforced a three-month suspension of all residential and commercial evictions. Texas has also put an end to evictions until April 19th. It’s a good idea to check out the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website to learn about the specific laws in your state.

Search for rental assistance programs

There are a number of federal and local rental assistance programs at your disposal. Start by visiting the Rental Assistance page on the HUD website or your state or city’s housing agency site. Another option is to perform a Google search with the term “rental assistance” and the name of your state, city, or county.

But yes, you still owe rent

Even though times are tough, understand that you still have a legal obligation to pay your landlord rent, so work on your game plan for how you’ll pay it. If your landlord grants you an extension, figure out whether you’ll need to cut other expenses, pick up a side hustle, or tap into your emergency fund to make your payments eventually.

If you can’t pay your rent during COVID-19, these tips can help you get through this financial roadblock in your life. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who understand what you’re going through, and a variety of resources available to provide you with the financial support and relief you need.

Looking for more tips on how to manage your money, get out of debt, and improve your finances during the pandemic and normal times? Come back to our blog to get more news and information.

*Disclaimer: Not to be considered a recommendation for legal services.

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Anna Baluch is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about all personal finance topics. She’s particularly interested in mortgages, retirement, insurance, and investing.